12 March 2016

The Chino Ranch Ride in Soquel Canyon

In April 1937, as part of a three-day celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Richard Gird's subdivision of the town of Chino, a core event in the area, which was widely-known for its equestrian ranches and farms, was a Community Day ride featuring some 1,200 horses, either ridden individually or hitched to a variety of vehicles.

The ride took place in downtown Chino as part of a five-division parade, featuring high school marching bands, guest marshals, poses from the sheriff's departments of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, police and fire departments, scouts, and others.  The four judges included Revel L. English, a nationally-known horse breeder, whose ranch covered a good portion of today's Chino Hills and whose name survives through English Springs Park and English Road.

The horse ride proved so popular that it was decided to make it a stand-alone annual event, but there was a change of venue.  Scouting of nearby locations found a secluded spot in Soquel Canyon, several miles southwest of downtown Chino in Soquel Canyon locatd in the Chino Hills.  Because the route passed by the Los Serranos Country Club, that institution made an ideal partner for the ride in terms of a starting and stopping point, as well as a place to have a dance and dinner.

With an organization, the Chino Ranch Ride Association, created to organize and execute the ride, it it became one of the primary community events in the Chino Valley.  The artifact shown here is the program for the thirteenth edition in 1949.

The inside front cover includes a "History of the Ride", which notes that there were "two occasions when bad weather just pededing the Ride forced it to be held on the high ground at the summit."  This reference is actually to Carbon Canyon and its summit, where the "high ground" might be where the Carriage Hills subdivision is located now.

As to the regular location of Hidden Valley, the history commented that
the setting for the Ride was selected after considerable search through the hills but when the committee discovered the glade in Soquel Canyon, with its natural amphitheater, ample space for tethering of mounts and area for the barbeque[,] they decded that here was an idea spot for such on occasion.
Hidden Valley is almost directly due south of Sleepy Hollow, just over a ridge with a steep drop down into Soquel Canyon.  As noted, this area widens from narrowed sections on either side, providing much room for all of the activities, serving of food and other services for the ride.

An attempt to establish a historical setting for the Ride was added from the early days of the event and replicated in this 1949 history, when it noted that
Fable has it that the famed California bandit, Joaquin Murietta, and his hand used this hide-away in the early days, his lookouts using the hill-tops for sighting the approach of stage coaches and caravans on either side.  They could swoop down out of the hills on forays against the unsuspecting travellers and escape to their natural fortress from which it would have been difficult to route [rout] them  because of the inaccessbility of the area. Here they had abundant shelter, lush meadows and cool, clear water for their horses from the creek that, in those days, flowed steadily throughout the year.
There may actually be some tidbits of truth here.  Joaquin Murrieta allegedly emerged from the fields of the California Gold Rush after experiencing racism from Americans and Europeans evicting Mexican, South American and Chinese miners from good claims in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and began a career as a bandit.  At one point in the early 1850s, it was claimed that he was seen in five distinct areas of the state.

When in November 1852, militia general and bar owner Joshua Bean, whose younger brother became the famed Judge Roy Bean in Texas, was murdered at his Headquarters Saloon in San Gabriel, it was claimed that Murrieta's girlfriend was accosted by Bean and that the bandit chief ordered another man to kill the offender.

In summer 1853, the California State Rangers, created by the state for Murrieta's capture and led by Harry Love, a former bounty hunter, was said to have found the gang near what became Fresno and, after a pitched battle, Murrieta was killed.  Allegedly he was decapitated and the head preserved in a liquor-filled jar for identification.  It was reported that the grisly relic was displayed in San Francisco where it was destroyed in the great earthquake and fire of 1906.

If Murrieta was occasionally in the Los Angeles region, it is possible that he and others used the Chino Hills and Soquel Canyon areas as a rendezvous and attack point.  After all, one of the main roads into the region came up from Yuma, across the deserts, up through Warner Springs in San Diego County, then Temecula and along the eastern flanks of the Chino Hills, where a main stopping point was Isaac Williams's Rancho Santa Ana del Chino home, on what is now Boys Republic in Chino Hills.  From there, the road went into modern Pomona, went around the northern reaches of the hills and then into the lower San Gabriel Valley and westward to Los Angeles.

Although the 1949 pamphlet stated that bandits in the Chino Hills could observe "on either side," the main road through the plains of what is now Orange County is quite a bit to the west, roughly paralleling Interstate 5, but it may be possible that robberies were carried out there, as well.

And, as noted, Soquel Canyon does have those "lush meadows" and, though not so much in these drought-stricken days, "cool, clear water" so that shelter in "Hidden Valley" might well have attracted bandits 150 years ago.  In fact, there'll be an entry soon in this blog that discusses one likely use of the canyon for a murderer--but, check back later for that one.

Regarding events for the 1949 ride, it included prizes and ribbons to those entered in fifteen categories, including for men and women; youngest and oldest riders to control their horses; for palominos, quarter horses and pintos; and for the Best Law Enforcement Group, among others.

Also of note were the many advertisements contained in the program, including the Heinaur-Griffith Mortuary, Bassett's general store, La Cita Cafe (offering "Spanish" and American food), Paul Ramos's grocery store and meat market, Gene's Cafe and Cocktail Ounge, Karlson's Service Station, Van Dusen's Department Store, Chino Lumber Company, Van Arnold's Ford dealership, and Los Serranos Country Club, which "welcomes Chino Rancho Riders and Their Guests" and invites them to "Dine and Dance Dressed As You Are," as western wear replaced something more formal.

The Chino Ranch Ride was a major event in the valley for decades and, though it has long been discontinued, there are still physical remnants of the Hidden Valley location.  These include concrete block walls for structures, sections of pipe fencing, rusting water troughs, and other relics.

Meantime, come back soon for more Soquel Canyon history and stories.

1 comment:

Eileen McHugh said...

I remember going on this ride in 1962 on a pregnant palomino (later to become the bucking bronco). It was great fun with a chuck wagon style barbeque and riding competition.